GUEST POST: Mike Crump on Robert Liston and the Spectacle of Surgical Amputation

The first use of ether in dental surgery, 1846. Oil painting

Robert Liston was the first surgeon in England to use anaesthesia during surgical leg amputation. (Image: Wellcome Library, London. Oil painting depicting first use of ether during dental surgery, 1846).

Today’s post comes from Mike Crump, a brilliant young neuroscientist doing impressive brain research at Oxford (which is far too complicated for my humble art historical mind to fully understand, let alone articulate to you, so I won’t embarrass myself trying). When not discovering awesome brain things, Mike is interested in the dark corners of the history of science and medicine. He’s written a great article for the blog about a ridiculously interesting Victorian surgeon, Robert Liston, who was one part medical innovator, one part sensational showman. So read on for a bit of gruesome and fascinating history about a man who could amputate a leg in less than 30 seconds, and did so in a most spectacular style… Continue reading